Monday, 24 October 2016

Head Master's Weekly Notes - 21 October 2016

We stopped and paused for reflection at our annual Speech Day this afternoon where we welcomed our Guest of Honour, Mr Kevin Roberts. Here we celebrated the success of Sexeians past and present and I was thoroughly impressed with the slick organisation, the conduct and maturity of our students, the calm composure of the Wind Band, the assured delivery by the Heads of School (Max and Victoria) and the quality of our guest speaker, Kevin. A truly memorable occasion which highlights all that is outstanding about this fine institution and thank you to all colleagues who made this possible today – a great team effort and the Hobhouse (30 years old this week) looked stunning, including the flowers. There has also been plenty going on at Sexey’s - from numerous House competitions, sporting fixtures, drama rehearsals, music practices, art workshops, PSHE, Open Evenings, the Philosophy and Theology Conference, Boarders’ Church Services, Bath Rugby, TEDxSexey’s, Duke of Edinburgh award and of course the important matter of teaching and learning. It was great to hear the excitement from the Head of Sixth Form, when one of our U6 students had already received an interview from a university – their application was only sent off last week! This bodes well for the future and I wish the U6 well. And of course, the Y11s have their Michaelmas Trial Exams after the half term break (w/c Mon 14 November) and it would be wise for them to use this time productively to prepare for these important examinations, but at the same time to have some rest and to recuperate – it’s vital that there is a balance here.

So as we hurtle towards the end of this busy term I would like to thank all staff and Governors for their efforts in ensuring that our students receive the highest quality teaching and pastoral care – it’s not easy at times but I am grateful for all their hard work, patience and commitment. And also to you too, for all the support you give to our school – by working together in partnership we can all bring out the best in our students.

Have a pleasant and peaceful break.

Monday, 10 October 2016

Head Master's Weekly Notes - 7 October 2016

‘Now Is The Winter Of Our Discontent’ (as the weather takes a turn for the worse) and ‘All the World’s a Stage’ by William Shakespeare are quite apt writings and poems in light of the school’s celebration of National Poetry Day this week. Yesterday saw dozens of students scribbling away and creating their own poems under the guiding light of the English Department and I look forward to hearing them read their masterpieces. Providing such opportunities within the school day for our students to allow their creative juices to flow is important, and lets them express themselves in a different context. I want to continue to encourage creativity here at the school and hope that our students will take up the many opportunities on offer. Rehearsals for this year’s drama production, Shakespeare’s ‘King Lear’ are well under way – the work and the world of the bard continues to inspire generations.

On Tuesday we had our 6th Form Open Evening for prospective students and their parents and with over 130 families in attendance, there was standing room only in the Main Hall. Again, our 6th form students were a real credit to their parents and to the school and our speakers articulated their thoughts on their experiences with great passion - not an easy task addressing over 300 people in the Hall, but they did it. We have an outstanding 6th Form (the results at A-level speak for themselves) and a dedicated team who go above and beyond the call of duty. If any of our Y11 parents didn’t get a chance to come in on the evening or would like to visit again, then please do get in touch with Mrs Stallion who will be only too happy to organise a personal visit for you. Speaking of the 6th form, a reminder that our Lower 6th (Year 12) ‘Meet the Tutor’ event takes place on Monday, 17th October at 4pm in the Sixth Form Centre. And of course, my ruminations would not be complete without mentioning the weather and it really has turned cold. I do feel for our intrepid explorers who are out on Exmoor this week looking to gain their DoE Silver award; I am confident our students’ attitude and conduct will be exemplary even when faced with such a challenge. Hockey and rugby matches continued to dominate the Elm and Daisy Fields this week with weekend rugby fixtures against Milton Abbey and weekday matches against Dauntsey’s and Bruton School for Girls. It was wonderful to hear the excitement of an U6 girl who bounded towards my study this morning to tell me all about how the Senior Hockey Ladies’ team managed to win 1-0 against BSfG away - a tremendous feat and a memory which will last with that young woman for a long time to come. I hope she can draw on her experience on that astroturf and use it as inspiration in her everyday life. The Equestrian Team are also competing at Leweston this Sunday.

I look forward to seeing you at the many school events organised over the coming months at Sexey’s (yes, it’s already October!) and, of course, it’s Speech Day in a couple of weeks’ time which also signals the end of this half term. It’s been a very busy half term and with play rehearsals, concerts, services, trial exams, more sporting fixtures to come, things will only get hotter…

Monday, 3 October 2016

Head Master's Weekly Notes - 30 September 2016

From The Head Master

Bonjour! Guten Tag! Buenos Dias! This week saw European Languages Week with the MFL department putting on a variety of activities which engaged and enthused not only the students, but the staff too – from conversations and quizzes to posters and competitions. Acquiring the grammar and linguistic skills to speak and understand another language is so important as it not only helps develop communication but also fosters a deep cultural understanding which nurtures the values of tolerance, respect and kindness – the very values we as a school promote as part of our ethos – studying a language can only be a good thing.  Mandarin Club takes place on Mondays after school, though not a European Language, the unique opportunity is still there for students to take advantage of. Much like the 6th form who have set up their on TEDx (Technology, Entertainment, Design) conference after half term which was launched this week by the TEDxSexey’s team and by Miss Clem Calkin from TEDxYouthBath – curiosity, endeavour and independence all in abundance amongst our 6th formers. Incidentally, our 6th Form Open Evening takes place next Tuesday (4th October) - do please spread the word; all our Y11 students are expected to attend.

Sporting fixtures galore this week where all four rugby teams, U12, U13, U14 and the 1st XV had impressive victories against Warminster School – a tremendous feat by the boys which hopefully sets the tone for the season ahead, The girls had some encouraging performances in hockey this week against strong opposition at Bruton School for Girls and Dauntsey’s and Huish Episcopi and  we look forward to the block fixture against Stonar School tomorrow morning – the first of our Saturday fixtures this term. I hope the values of respect, integrity and sportsmanship will continue both on and off the pitch throughout this weekend amidst the controversy surrounding the beautiful game, football, which has unfortunately become rather ugly.

Monday, 19 September 2016

Head Master's Weekly Notes - 16 September 2016

From the Head Master

I have just had time to draw breath after a host of events and activities this week at Sexey’s – from Girls’ hockey and rugby practices, the Silver DoE expedition to the Quantocks, Mandarin Club, 6th Form EPQ research trip to the University of Southampton, BSA, TLC, Roald Dahl Day, Y7 Sexey's Bug competition, Glow in the Park at Longleat, Splashdown in Poole (pun not intended), clubs and societies, 6th Form trip to the Royal Shakespeare Company to watch a performance of Marlowe's 'Dr Faustus' and the GCSE Geography trip. Has it really only been 10 days since the start of term? It still feels like summer...

On Tuesday, after the School Chaplain, Mr Kelley, explored the impact of 9/11 on the world some 15 years on with our 6th form, the English department celebrated the centenary of Roald Dahl's birth. A hundred years may have passed since he was born, but it remains impossible to imagine a literary world without characters he created such as Willy Wonka, Matilda, and the BFG. He remains one of the world’s best storytellers and his stories will inspire many a generation to come, much like his quotes. And one stands out in particular for me, which I would like to share with you.  
“I think probably kindness is my number one attribute in a human being. I'll put it before any of the things like courage or bravery or generosity or anything else. Kindness - that simple word. To be kind - it covers everything, to my mind. If you're kind that's it.”

Kindness is one of our core values, along with Tolerance and Respect and this quote by Roald Dahl really resonates with me and I hope it does with you and with our students too. How we treat each other speaks volumes about us and not losing sight of these values when times get challenging reflects our character and personality. It’s only our second week back and I can see these values in abundance at Sexey's. We have our Boarders’ Church Service at St Mary’s this Sunday at 11.00am – it would be lovely to see you there. 

Friday, 9 September 2016

Head Master's Weekly Notes - 09 September 2016

From the Head Master

Welcome back to the start of the new Michaelmas Term and a warm welcome to our new parents whose sons and daughters have joined us this September. I hope my weekly ruminations do not clog up your inboxes and subsequent posts will be shorter, I promise! So where did the summer go? Where indeed did last year go? The first week is almost over and I hope that our students have settled back quickly into normal school routines and that our new members to the school community (students and staff) are beginning to understand how we at Sexey’s work and operate. It is a delight to see our new Year 7 pupils enjoying all that Sexey’s has to offer both in and out of the classroom and I hope their energy and enthusiasm continues long into the term.  It was wonderful to see the Head of School, Max Kaberry (U6) and his peers sit with our new Y7s at lunch today and talk to them about school life – it was like older brothers and sisters guiding their younger siblings. And that’s what Sexey’s is about –  family. It was great to hear the School Hymn being belted out at assembly (I missed it over the summer!) and the Head Boy (Freddie Seymour Y11) and Head Girl (Lucia Elliott Y11) of the Lower School reading with such aplomb about the Olympics in Rio this summer and how Team GB was funded – do talk to them about it over the weekend and the implications for sport in general in the UK. I am now glued to the Paralympics in Rio…

As you can imagine, it has been a busy week for our students and staff – Leadership Training for our Sixth Form, meeting new students as well as new staff, girls’ hockey practices, rugby practices, various clubs and societies at lunchtimes and after school, assemblies, prayers, singing practices, learning how to play Squares, the implementation of ‘GCSEPod’ (watch this space), new boarding tutors in all the boarding houses, pre-season rugby training, DoE preparation, Professor Collingridge’s lecture (winner of the Brain Prize 2016) to our students and parents last night on neuroscience, PSA (Parent Staff Association) meeting (more below) and of course, lessons! There is so much going on here and I would like to thank my colleagues for making this happen – I am very lucky indeed to have such a dedicated and committed staff and I wish them well for the exciting year ahead.

We have had a very positive start to the term buoyed by the outstanding exam results the school has achieved at GCSE and A-level over the summer. The excellent performance at A-level (62% A*-B) is testimony to the hard work and effort by our Y13s and their teachers and our results give many of our competitors (independent and state) a good run for their money. Over 80% of our Y13s have now entered university, many of which are Russell Group. The AS results are equally encouraging and bode well for the future and the new Y13s know exactly what they need to do in order to enjoy the same success as their predecessors – academic discipline, commitment and dedication are all necessary attitudes which they are adopting in order to move forward and secure those coveted places in industry or university. Of course, there needs to be a balance, and enjoying life outside the classroom is equally as important and it was wonderful to hear two Y13s after a hard day at school, enthusing about Professor Collingridge’s stimulating lecture.

Not to be outdone, the stunning performance at GCSE by our Year 11s achieving the highest results for a generation are equally impressive. Our results, on all accountability measures including the main Government measure of 5A*-C including English and Maths (83%) by which all schools are compared by, is the best in Somerset, Dorset, Wiltshire, Devon and Cornwall. Our students and staff have worked diligently to achieve these outstanding results and I am delighted for them. In amongst the headlines, there are numerous individual successes, students who have pulled themselves up to, and beyond their fullest potential, and it is just as exciting to see a student who might have expected a C achieving an A as it is to see those who achieve straight A*s or As. Many of our Year 11s have now moved into our Sixth Form and are already knuckling down to the demands of A-level and also look very professional indeed in their smart dress – they are here to work and to lead by example; this can only be good for the school as we carry on moving forward.

Please do take a moment to look at the website which will provide you with a wealth of information and do try and support as many of the events that you can – from concerts to plays, from sporting fixtures to exhibitions. Please book the dates in your diaries and join us when you can - you are all very welcome to these. If there is anything you are not sure about, then please do not hesitate to get in touch with us at School or with your son’s or daughter’s tutor. We are always here to help. Do also follow us on Twitter (@SexeysSchool) and join in the conversation.

It is great to be back and to see our Sexeians getting stuck into business and I can’t believe that the sun is actually shining.  I do hope that our students have used the holidays to recuperate, relax and reflect and are now ready to take on the many challenges they will face over the coming year. We are here to help them face those challenges, but for now, I wish you and them a pleasant and peaceful weekend. I look forward to another successful year both in and out of the academic arena. If I blink, I might miss it all – I hope not.

Friday, 8 July 2016

Head Master's Weekly Notes - 8 July 2016

Our founder, Hugh Sexey would have been proud of last night’s School Production of Shakespeare’s ‘Taming of the Shrew', which was performed with such confidence and energy by our Y7s and 8s. The cast and crew have produced a play which has set the standard for future productions - expectations will be high and the challenge even greater. The quote by Katherine, who was played by the eloquent Leanne Baker, “If I be waspish, best beware my sting” will ring in my ears for many years to come and well done to Jack Fowler-Baxter in the lead role of Petruchio, a difficult part to play but Jack rose to the challenge. Drama continues to excel at Sexey’s under the expert leadership of Mrs Kiddell and with Trinity Guild examinations on offer to our Sexeians and our partnership with the Youth Cinema Foundation, I am confident Drama will go from strength to strength. England’s most popular playwright, Shakespeare was a favourite of both Elizabeth I and James I to whom Hugh Sexey was the Royal Auditor and I think after last night's performance, a new generation of thespians are going to acquaint themselves with the bard. We also sponsored last weekend’s ‘Shakespeare Comes To Lamyatt’, where Hamlet was performed at Speeds Farm by the Festival Players Theatre Company and I know many Sexeians attended and enjoyed this event. Bringing the Bard to life who continues to this day to influence us through his many quotes, which have become part and parcel (is that one?) of our vernacular, ‘The world is my oyster’ to ‘heart of gold’  a national treasure to say the least. Best of luck to our thespians who will be treading the boards this evening – don’t break a leg whatever you do! Get your tickets now if you haven’t done so already. And speaking of taking to the stage, our very own Deliah Ackworth (L6) has successfully auditioned for the highly competitive National Youth Theatre of Great Britain. Do read below her story and how you can help.

It was a real privilege to attend the Somerset Games this week at Millfield School with the PE department and the event was opened by the Olympian marathon runner Mara Yamaguchi who spoke about character and resilience. Our sportsmen and women performed well with the swimmers coming a respectable 7th out of 14 schools and the Y7 Rounders’ team, who have had a tremendous season anyway, crowned champions of Somerset. A tremendous achievement and we wish the track and field athletes the very best today. We also welcomed the next generation of Sexeians this week (our new Y7 Boarders and Day students) for their Transition Day and it was great to see so many parents at the event – our new students had a brilliant time and my thanks go to colleagues and the prefects for making it such an enjoyable experience for them, from the variety of lessons they attended, the dress rehearsal of ‘Taming of the Shrew’, Games and afternoon tea with colleagues . We will be hosting our new Y7 boarders again this weekend when they will be having a sleepover in the boarding houses and will get the opportunity to make new friends, get to know each other, learn more about our boarding houses and most importantly, have fun! Let’s hope the weather is kind to us when we have the New Boarders’ BBQ at the Head Master’s House on Sunday with the Men’s’ Wimbledon Tennis Final in the back ground and later that evening the Euro 2016 Football Final. And let’s not forget the race to become the next British Prime Minister – it will be between two formidable women, Theresa May and Andrea Leadsom, We will of course watch this, as Shakespeare would have said ‘with bated breath’.

Monday, 4 July 2016

Head Master's Weekly Notes - 1 July 2016

It's been a dramatic time following the EU referendum - a result few saw coming. The resignation of a prime minister. Recrimination and infighting in both of Britain's major political parties; calls for a repeat vote and England's subsequent exit from the European Championships - Brexit, Regrexit and sporting humiliation all in such a short space of time!  And Friday isn't even over yet. It’s been a tumultuous time in politics and I guess we are all trying to make head and tail of what is going on. I wrote last week, will I be writing ‘From the Head Master’ next Friday from a different political landscape. And the answer to that is – I certainly am. I wrote the following to staff last Friday after the decision to leave was announced  and I would like to share this with you today.

After some 40 years, our close and influential relationship with the European Union has come to an abrupt and bitter end with us leaving the EU, an institution that has been part of our cultural fabric for decades, and the resignation of our prime minister. A truly monumental day for the UK to say the least. We are now sailing in uncharted territory with many unknowns which will inadvertently affect our working conditions, pensions, tax, economy, house prices, security and mortgages amongst other things.  It will be a difficult and complex minefield to navigate. Many of you will be disappointed in this morning's outcome to leave the EU; and many of you will also be elated with the outcome. However, it's important we respect the decision of the British people (and that of each other) and come together, putting aside our differences and work together in order to achieve the best for our students, our school and ultimately our country. The values of tolerance, respect and kindness mean so much now. This morning I have been working with the BSA and the DfE to understand the wide-ranging implications of Brexit for our EU students - the vote to leave has brought much consternation amongst many of our state boarding heads; for the time being it is business as usual. Boarders with EU passports will be completely unaffected by the referendum result for at least the next two years. The Boarding Schools Association has already highlighted this issue, and will be pressing for clarity. British education has great international appeal, and we will hope to be able to continue offer this opportunity to EU boarders for many years to come. 

Many of our students, including those from the EU, will not fully understand the implications of leaving the EU, I'm not even sure many of us do either. So they will need plenty of support and guidance to help them come to terms with this decision which has been made against a back drop of divisiveness over the past few weeks from both sides of the political spectrum. We will need to think long and hard about what our British values are and what they stand for. I don't think we quite realise the scale of the political change ahead of us with this historic decision which will permanently change the course of our country. It's the biggest political change that our country will have experienced for the past half century and I hope our leaders are well equipped and prepared to reassure and navigate us through this political storm.

We have spoken to our students this week about the EU referendum result and for us to continue to live by our values and we have continued to educate and provide as many opportunities to our students. This week our U15s played at the Wells Cathedral Cricket tournament where the likes of the MCC, Bryanston and Blundell’s School were being represented and our boys won their match against the Wells U15s, which is a great achievement. Man of the match was Jack Ives who took 5 wickets. The ‘End of Year Art Show’ highlighted all that is outstanding about Sexey’s –  creativity and diversity - and the art that was on display was stunning; I am sure we will give Hauser & Wirth a run for their money! And speaking of running, we have ‘the Race for Life’ around Bruton after school today, so do come down and support our students, staff and friends of the school and give generously to Cancer Research UK.

Today saw our students organise and deliver the Battle of the Somme Commemoration Service that took place this morning – a sombre and emotional occasion where we remembered the soldiers, including those six Old Sexeians, Harold Carver, Ernest Court, John Hodges, Horace Marsh, Harrington Sebright and Frank Withers who studied, lived, and fell together. They gave their lives during the infamous Battle of the Somme, so we can live ours. Moving poems written by our students (Tommy Stewart and Bryan Chow) were delivered with great confidence and aplomb.  It was an emotional event. After a century, the sacrifice of those soldiers is not forgotten. Let us always remember.